California Penal Code has defined a "criminal street gang" as any ongoing organization, association or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, having as one of its primary activities the commission of one or more of the criminal acts [assault with a deadly weapon or by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, robbery, homicide or manslaughter, sale or possession for sale, manufacture of a controlled substance, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, discharging or permitting to discharge from a motor vehicle (drive by), arson, intimidation of witnesses, grand theft, grand theft of a firearm, burglary, rape, looting, money laundering, kidnapping, mayhem, aggravated mayhem, torture, felony extortion, felony vandalism. carjacking, sale or delivery or transfer of a firearm,, possession of a firearm of a specified person, threats to commit crimes resulting in death or great bodily injury, and grand theft of a vehicle,] having a common name or common identifying sign or symbol, or whose members individually, or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity. (1) has continuity of purpose, (2) seeks a group identity, and (3) has members who individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity. (Reference section 186.22(f) of the California Penal Code)
California Penal Code 186.22(a) criminalizes participation in a criminal street if: a person actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang can be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two years, or three years. Essentially this code sections makes it against to the law to participate in a criminal street gang and assist in any felony criminal conduct.
California Penal Code 186.22(b) is a sentencing enhancement and is a separate and consecutive punishment that is in addition to the underlying felony conviction. This code section states that any person who is convicted of a felony committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in an criminal conduct by gang members shall upon conviction of that felony receive, and additional consecutive punishment of two years, three years, four years or in some cases 5 years, 10 years, fifteen years or 25 years to life in prison. Basically if a person commits a specified felony for the benefit, in association or direction of a street gang then the law provides a greater punishment.
In California those individuals who are in gangs, associate with gangs or who commit criminal acts for the benefit of the gang are punished much harsher than other individuals who committee the same exact crime. The laws surrounding criminal street gangs and there punishment can be very complicated. If you are facing charges as a gang member you want to hire someone with experience who will be able to navigate through the California criminal street gang laws.